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Terence Dick
Writer, Editor

Toronto
January 02, 2014

Terence Dick is the editor of Akimblog and every year at this time he exploits the power of his position to post a list of some of his favourite things from the past twelve months. This gives him the opportunity to talk about music, municipal politics, and the non-art interests that occupy his time when he's not going to galleries and writing about exhbitions. In addition to putting words together on the page, he teaches philosophy and creative writing to high school students.

1. Rebecca Solnit

Hers is a name I hear bandied about by the kind of people who pique my curiosity on places like Facebook, but it took an interview on CBC's The Sunday Edition to push me over into pursuit. My wife purchased one of her first books (Savage Dreams), but while I was waiting for her to finish it, a good friend left a copy of her newest work (The Faraway Nearby) on my doorstep. Based on this one reading, the best way I can describe Solnit's writing is like listening to a smart, well-traveled, poetic soul regale you with stories that meander through digressions while knowing full well that the point is the journey, not the destination. A small part of me worries she lacks "rigor" and isn't as "serious" as those critics who sail the seas of high theory, but I'd take her musings on shifting meaning in arctic narratives over a discourse on narratology any day.

As a runner-up in this year's art writer of note: I finally got around to reading Dave Hickey's Air Guitar and enjoyed the spirit of his words while resisting his judgments. He won me over – as I'm sure he's done for a lot of his fans – by his straight shooting penetrability. The more I write and see, the less patient I am with the style (and it is a style) of writing that has become de rigeur in an academic context and infects a lot of the non-academic texts that appear in the art world (which is not to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Hickey's dismissal of academic institutions as a toxic influence on art making – but that's another soapbox for another time). Suffice to say, I'm excited to read his long awaited follow-up Pirates and Farmers (which Santa put in my stocking last week).

2. Ric Owens vs. Paris Fashion Week

My interest in fashion tends to be minimal. I am of the "buy multiple pairs of the same thing" school. And despite Meryl Streep's articulately icy lesson on the importance of colour in The Devil Wears Prada, I still find the industry painfully self-regarding, irrelevant to my everyday life, and potentially damaging to my daughters' future self esteem. It's in regards to this last point that I was excited and encouraged by the video of American designer Ric Owens' spring womenswear collection in Paris this year. I wish I could have been there to savour the reaction of the assembled fashionistas to the stomping, furious, and human-sized sorority step dancers who modeled the clothes. Challenging the status quo is always a good thing.

3. #topoli

I'm embarrassed to say I'm repeating myself a bit with this year's list, but this item (and the next one) stayed on my radar for reasons that should be obvious not simply to the citizens of Toronto, but, in the aftermath of the spring and fall crack scandals, the entire world. If you want to know the latest accusation/revelation/denial/confession/apology from Rob Ford, this is the hashtag you must follow. There are a dedicated group of municipal affairs reporters (and a couple from the local crime beat, of course) who were essential this year in keeping me on top of the whole sordid, unbelievable, hilarious, and, since he's still mayor and people still support him, depressing debacle that is the reality TV show and late night talk show comedy sketch known as Toronto politics. Combined with livestreaming and YouTube videos, the experience of following Ford's third year in power has been constant and surreal. Truth be told, after having to explain crack to my nine-ear-old and defend the position that admitting to smoking said crack in a drunken stupor is reason enough to ask a mayor to step down, I fear the phenomenon that is Rob Ford has poisoned the political consciousness of the near future. No joke.

4. GY!BE vs. The Polaris Prize

The album that I selected for my 2012 Hit List happened to be favoured this year by the Canadian music industry in the form of the jury-selected Polaris Prize. The trouble is, the winning group, Montreal's recently reformed Godspeed You! Black Emperor, had a couple misgivings about the whole arrangement. They didn't show up for the award ceremony, which wasn't surprising given their avoidance of press photos and antipathy to any sort of self-promotion or marketing. They did, however, accept the prize money, saying they would use it to provide musical instruments to prisoners in Quebec. They made this known through a statement that also went a couple steps beyond looking a gift horse in the mouth; they, in fact, slapped it around a bit. What followed was the usual online bickering and then life went back to normal, but for a few days it felt good for someone to maintain their stance against the machine and not be tempted by cash. In this day and age, I consider that heroic.

5. Offsite

As for the art that got me excited this year, I continue to be a sucker for offsite extravaganzas that transform parts of the city into temporary alternative realities for the imagination. Nuit Blanche is unfortunately becoming too entrenched as a street festival and not a scavenger hunt, so it is tough to love. Kill Joy's Castle (the lesbian feminist haunted house), the epic Landslide at the simulacrum known as the Markham Museum, and Art Spin's old school abandoned warehouse group exhibition all had their weaknesses, but their core strength lay in making the magic happen off the grid thereby forcing us to map out new paths through the places we live – literally. Here's to more reasons to explore in 2014!

 

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